Craig Groeschel - Racism and the Responsibility of The Church
With all of our growing cultural awareness of the ongoing problem of racism, I wanted to pause "Stay Positive", and speak to our whole church about our responsibility that we have as followers of Christ. I like what Scripture says in the Old Testament in Micah 6:8. Scripture says this. "The Lord has told us to do what is right". God tells us, this is what is right, "and it's also what he demands". What is right and what does God demand? He says that, "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God".
What I'm doing is I'm asking God to help us as a church family, to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and be united as one. So when the world looks on, they will know that we're followers of Jesus by the way we truly love one another. In fact, Paul said this in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. He was describing the Body of Christ and showing that person is a part of the body. You are part of the Body of Christ. You're an indispensable part of the Body of Christ. It's one body with many parts, and he said in 1 Corinthians 12:26, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it".
If there's one portion of the Body of Christ that hurts, we all hurt. If my arm hurts, my body hurts, and honestly, as you know, there are so many people that are suffering, grieving and hurting beyond description, and so, as the Body of Christ, we hurt together. When one part hurts, we all hurt. In fact, Paul also told us in Romans 12:15, he told us this. He said to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and to mourn with those who mourn". The rejoicing comes easily. We do that well. It's second nature to us.
Like I made the announcement this week that our daughter, Mandy, who has struggled with ongoing chronic illness, she and James had great news. They are expecting, and we are celebrating beyond measure, and as the family of God, we rejoice together. But we also, according to Scripture, mourn with those that mourn, and what I want to do is I want to ask you, as a church family, just to pause and to grieve with those that are grieving. Then I'm going to ask you to do more, and join me to make a difference, because I know that you want to, and some of you, even though you want to, you don't quite know how to, and so that's what I want to talk about today.
Let's just do some straight talk for a minute, if it's okay with you. If you're anything like me, whenever you read about or you hear about some injustice in another part of the world, it's really easy to be sad, you know, for a moment, and then to kind of go on with life. You hear about some injustice, and you think, "Wow, that's really unfortunate for them", and you're genuinely sad about it, but because of the way our human nature is, you could hate it for a moment, but because it's far away and not here, it might upset you a little bit and it might bother you, but it really doesn't move you to action.
It's different, though, when you see an extended video of horrific abuse, that goes on and on and on. The first time I saw the short version of the video, I was speechless and I was broken, like so many of you. When I watched the longer version of George Floyd begging for mercy and saying, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe", I couldn't watch the whole video. I could not finish it. I don't want to finish it. I don't ever want to see the longer version of that video.
Like so many of you, I find it impossible to put words to the emotions that I felt. It's more than shock. It's deeper than grief. I found myself with this unusual combination of indescribable sadness, unexpected rage that I hadn't felt before, and then just this profound sense of helplessness. What do I do with what I just saw? Here's what I do know, and I'm sure this is completely true for you. If you see someone attacking someone that you love, what do you do? You speak up and you step in. You use your power to help the person who is suffering. You use, you do what you can do to stop the injustice.
And so when I saw that video, normally I would wait for more details and wouldn't wade into some things that I don't completely understand, but I did something that I rarely do, and I posted a video immediately, and I knew that I couldn't get my words just right. I mean, how can I, with my very limited perspective? But what I wanted to do is I just wanted to try to communicate that I notice. I wanted to say what is true, that racism is wrong, it's evil, and I just wanted to say I care, and I want to help. I don't know how to help completely. I know that it's way more than a post on social media, but I just want to acknowledge that it's wrong, and I want to do something about it.
Pastor Charlie Dates, he said this. He said, "Believers of color want their brothers and sisters to call out the injustices around them. They want to stand in unity rebuking a wayward culture". And so I totally can understand that, if someone's coming against me, I want someone else to step in, and so I made a small attempt to call out the injustice, but what I want to do today is I want to say more, and I want to say it louder, and I want to invite you to join me in seeking justice, and showing mercy, and walking humbly before our God. I want to ask you to help me do this.
What's interesting to me is, whenever you start taking about justice, what I know is that there are some people that are gonna say, "Man, the police officers are completely out of control. It's completely the police officers' fault". And I what I want to say is this, clearly. This is not about police officers. This is about all of us. This is about me, this is about you, this is about all of us. Are there some bad police officers? Yes, let's be clear, just like there's some very bad pastors. There's bad and evil people everywhere, but when it comes to police officers, every police officer that I know personally and I love dearly, they went into their profession because they actually love justice, because they care, because they honestly want to make a difference.
So I just want to kind of wade into what many would consider dangerous territory and say you don't have to choose a side. You don't have to choose a side. You could be whole-heartedly against racial injustices and you can be for honorable police officers. You can do both. You don't have to choose sides. What I know about most of you, because you're amazing, church family. You love Jesus. What I know about most of you is that you care, and there are a lot of you that lean more kind of like me. You want to do something, but you don't know exactly what to do.
So before I did speak, I did a lot of homework. Hours and hours and hours and hours of phone calls with leaders that I trust, to try to learn how we, as a church, can truly get in the middle of something that's complicated, but do it with love and do it in a way that makes a difference. So I've gotten a lot of advice on how we can help the healing and stop the injustices, and I just want to say these things to our church family, and believe that, by the help of the power of God, we actually can make a difference.
What can you do from where you are? I want to give you four things. The first thing that we can all do is we can admit that racism is real. We can admit that it's real. Just because you haven't seen racism doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. It does. It's all over the world today. Just because your perspective might be more limited and it hasn't hit your home doesn't mean that it's not real for so many people, and we have to acknowledge that racism is real. The bottom line is, we can't be part of a solution to a problem that we don't acknowledge exists. We have to acknowledge it.
And what this is gonna take for so many of us, is cultural humility, where we recognize that we all have certain biases, we all have different perspectives, and one of the biggest problems I've seen with my white brothers and sisters is, so often, we tend to think that our experience is the same as everyone else's, and we just gotta kinda pull our heads out and say that's just simply not true. Couldn't be further from the truth. We have to acknowledge that racism is very, very real today. Sure, in some places, we've made progress, but there's so much more progress that needs to be made. It's a very, very real problems today.
Now, when you know something is a problem, and you're a parent, what do you do? You talk about it in your home. You discuss it. COVID-19, wow, where did this come from? It's a challenge. What do we do? We talk about it in our home. Here's how we're responsible, here's how we're wise, here's how we protect other people. Drugs, that's a problem, so what do we do? We talk about it at our home. We educate our children. Racism is a problem, so what do we do? We talk about this in our home. In fact, we home-educate all of our kids. We've home-educated all six of them. Guess what? You do, too. You're all homeschooling now.
And one thing I love about Amy as she's worked on the curriculum, is she designs it to give our children a broad and a cultural breadth to increase their understanding and empathy from people from different backgrounds. Then what we want to do is we want to help our children to know that everyone is created in the image of God. Everyone is created in the image of God, and as we do, we want to help our children grow past an us and them language. It's just us and us. We're all God's children. When God looks at us, He doesn't see Jew or Gentile, male or female, black, white, anything. He sees His children.
So once you do admit, yes, racism is still real, still a problem, then you call it what it is. Yes, it's wrong, it's worse than wrong. It's evil, and it breaks the heart of God. What can you do to make a difference, because you care and you want to? It starts with admitting that racism is real.
The second thing that we can do is we can listen. We can ask questions and we can listen to someone who has a different story or a different background than us. For example, I'm really thankful that our staff is relatively diverse on all different fronts, and last week, in particular, I just sat down with more staff members than I ever have before, and just let some conversations breathe, asked questions, and just shut up, and I listened. I asked questions that were a little bit uncomfortable for me, like, you know, "Tell me your story about your background. How has racism impacted your life"? And the more I heard, the more I learned that I had so much to learn.
As I listened, my heart just broke, and I realized your perspective is so different from mine, and hearing your perspective gives me so much deeper love, empathy, compassion, and a sense to do what's right. Let me just tell you upfront, you may hear some things that make you uncomfortable. You may go into some places in a conversation that you're like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know what to do with this". You may feel very uncomfortable. But some of your most powerful moments in life happen outside your relational comfort zone.
Just care enough to go there. Care enough to ask. Care enough to listen. Care enough to feel someone else's pain. Admit that racism is real. Call it what it is. It's evil. It's an abomination to God. Then listen to someone who's hurting. Then what you can do is you can pray. You can pray. Some people say, "Do way more than pray: act". Yes, act, but yes, pray. Prayer is powerful. We gathered last week with another pastor couple friend of mine and one of our own worship pastors and we tried to unite our church in prayer. If you'd like to participate in that, maybe you missed it, you can go to YouTube and you can just pray. We'll show you, here's how we pray. Here's what we do. Prayer matters.
Scripture's very, very clear. 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face", God says, "and turn from their wicked ways". We repent. We got it wrong. We humble ourselves. We call on you. God says, "I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land". Bottom line is, we cannot do this alone. We need help from heaven, and you can pray. Pray for George Floyd's family that's grieving. Pray for the people in Minneapolis. Pray for our leaders to hear from God, to make wise decisions. Pray for justice. Pray for compassion. Pray for those who suffer unjustly and pray for those who protect us bravely. Pray for the victims and pray for those who serve. Pray for opportunities to use your voice, and to act. Pray for unity in the Body of Christ.
Jesus prayed for it, Paul prayed for it. I love what Jesus prayed in John 17. He said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message", what? "That all of them might be one". God, make them one. "Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe you have sent me", Jesus prayed, and He said, "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me". If Jesus prayed for unity and Paul prayed for unity, I want to pray for unity, and I want to be an answer to their prayers.
What if, in our generation, we could be one that starts to get it right? "We battle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of this dark world". Prayer is not like our last line of defense. It's our first line of offense. We're people of prayer, and we believe that prayer changes things.
What else can you do? You can call it wrong, admit that it's real. You can listen to someone. You can pray boldly in faith, and then, number four, you can love. You can love. How do we love? How do we do it? Let me give you some adverbs. You can love overtly. You can love recklessly. You can love boldly and generously and unconditionally and bravely. If someone makes a racist joke, you can step in and say, "No, no, no, no, no, over the line. No, that's not right. Don't ever say that again". You can stand with others. Wander into an area that might make you feel a little bit uncomfortable, but you say, "You know what? I'm gonna stand with you in unity. I'm gonna stand by you and I'm gonna stand for you".
It's a little bit like the whole Black Lives Matter statement. First of all, it's not a statement, it's a truth, and so many people will, you know, kind of push back and say, "But yeah, no, all lives matter. All lives matter, all lives matter". Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and amen, and yes. All lives matter. Duh. The lives of the unborn matter. Yes, all lives matter. But sometimes, you have to be very specific and very personal. I've got six children. If one of them is mistreated, forgotten, overlooked, abused, left hurting, I don't go up to that child and say, "All six of my children matter". No! I look at 'em and say, "You matter". Because I love the individual as well as the whole.
So sometimes, you just have to say, "Black lives matter. All lives matter, sure, but right now, there is someone who needs to hear it from me. You matter". Love. Love. Let's try to get outside of our own perspectives and see it as someone else sees it, and speak directly into someone else's pain with the same love we receive from God. Love. What does Scripture say? "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs". What does love do? So powerful. Love covers sin. Love dispels anger. Love drives out all fear. Isn't there enough fear in this world today? Love casts out all fear. Love forgives, and love heals. How do you love? Like Jesus loved you. I've done so many things wrong, so many things I regret, and Jesus forgives my sins and He freely loves me, and that's how you love.
So church, what are we gonna do? We're gonna acknowledge that racism is wrong. It's evil. It breaks the heart of God. We're gonna listen to people. We're gonna hear their stories. We're going to love. I would encourage you just to spend time with someone, listen to their story, look into their eyes long enough, like I have, until you feel their pain, and then cry with them. You don't have to feel like you need to say, "I understand", because you don't. You don't have to understand to hurt with somebody. Just say, "I love you. You matter. I notice. I care".
We're gonna listen. We're gonna care. We're gonna pray with bold faith to a God who says all things are possible. We're gonna love overtly, recklessly, and boldly, and generously and unconditionally and courageously. And then, we're gonna pause and recognize that what we just did might have made a little difference, but we have so much more to do. A social media post is a start, but it's not the finish.
This message is a very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very small start, but we have so much more to do. We will act justly. We will love mercy. We'll walk humbly with our God under the banner of the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus, who was born of a virgin, died on a cross, and rose again from the dead so that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Sin is sin is sin is sin. The only answer is Jesus.
So Father, help us know Jesus. Help us make Him known. God, we pray that, as a church family, you would empower us to make a difference in this world. Light shining into darkness, standing up for those who are unjustly abused, seeking justice, showing mercy, loving as we've been loved, and may the world look on and know we're followers of Jesus by the way we love one another.
If you want to be a part, and I know you do, why don't you stand up to your feet at all of our churches. We're gonna lift up the name of Jesus in praise, and we're gonna do our best to honor God and to love people.